Justin Jared Thompson Memorial

Justin Jared Thompson 1986 – 2002

Depression and Teenage Suicide in Utah

Teen-Age Suicide

In July 2004, U.S. Senator Gordon Smith, a Mormon from Oregon, promoted a bill in the Senate to provide money for counseling teen-agers at risk of suicide. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Senator Smith’s son, Garrett Lee Smith, “ended his own life the day before his 22nd birthday in September, 2003, following a struggle with bipolar disorder.” During the Senate discussion, Utah Senator Orin B. Hatch noted that “teen-age suicide among young men was higher in Utah than any other state.”

The Mormon Church quickly responded that these statistics did not reflect on the Mormon Church. In fact, research has shown that the incidence of suicide among Mormon men who are active in their church, that is, young men who have followed the prescribed path and have received the “appropriate priesthood calling for their age” — is lower than any place in the country.   (See my video critique of this very dishonest study:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aXvuECd9dI &   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VxnB64oEEY )

Those who do not follow the prescribed course are most at risk: those who question the validity of the Mormon commandments; those who dare step outside the behavior mandated by the church. The statistics reveal that 551 suicides were committed among ten to thirty-four-year-old Utah males during 1991-1995. Six in ten were committed by Mormon Church members. Fifty percent of suicides of young men in this state are committed by inactive Mormons — 275 deaths were young men who, for one reason or another, did not follow the strict mandates of the Mormon Church. My heart weeps for the pain implied in these numbers.

See this link from the LDS Church owned Deseret News Daily news paper:  Teen Suicide in Utah – Deseret News

Depression in Utah

On July 9, 2005, Utahans began their day with the following headlines:

“Got the blues? You’re not alone in Utah; SLC rates among the unhappiest places, but maybe we’re just more honest about it”

According to Men’s Health magazine, Salt Lake City “is one of the most depressing places to live.” An article reported a local psychiatrist, Michael Measom, who explained: The high ranking might be related to the cultural acceptance of depression here and financial pressure due to large families and lower wages.”2

One would expect that a community which is seventy percent Mormon — a church claiming to be led by God himself through a living prophet — would be wholesome and healthy. This is the impression promoted through advertising and news stories. And yet, in addition to the sensational events just mentioned, several national studies about the health of Utahans speak of the dis-ease in Zion. An article in the LA Times quoted a national study released the summer of 2001 and confirmed in January 2002, reporting that antidepressant drugs are prescribed twice as often in Utah than any other state, including three times more often than New York and New Jersey.3

In the above article, Dr. Curtis Canning, president of the Utah Psychiatric Association, said he had “some hunches” which may explain why Utah ranks so high “despite the fact that seventy percent of its residents are Mormon…In Mormondom, there is a social expectation — particularly among the females — to put on a mask, say ‘Yes’ to everything that comes at her and hide the misery and pain. I call it the ‘Mother of Zion’ syndrome…I think the cultural issue is very real. There is the expectation that you should be happy, and if you’re not happy, you’re failing…Because Mormonism ‘requires perfection and the public presentation of a happy face, whatever may be happening privately,’ many try to hide their struggles and are therefore in need of the mood-altering drugs.”

Dr. Canning quotes a seventy-one-year-old woman who explains how easy it is to get prescription drugs. She admitted she was addicted as were her three grown children. She explained that “Most men here would just as soon their wives take pills than bother to delve into the problems” that cause their need. Another Utah woman said she quit the drugs after 15 years of use. ‘It’s like Happy Valley here. Everything is always rosy. That’s how we got ourselves into this mess—we’re good at ignoring things.”

The article further reports that “besides the high usage of antidepressants, Utah also leads the nation in the use of narcotic painkillers such as codeine and morphine-based drugs.”3

Mental Illness – 10.97 Percent

A federal report printed in the Salt Lake Tribune in February, 2005, showed that “Utah has the nation’s lowest rate of illegal drug use and binge drinking among American youth but one of the country’s highest rates of serious mental illness.”

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found a total of 10.97 percent of Utahans age eighteen and older have a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder that substantially interfered with one or more major life activities. Only Rhode Island had a higher rate of serious mental illness, 10.98 percent, according to the report.

Also see this:  Utah No. 1 for Prescription Drugs – Deseret News